Thursday 21 March 2024

Season Review 2023/24

Another season in the history books. One that saw a new PB rudd, a new river double barbel, a 120lb stingray and a 20lb pike amoung the highlights. Again barbel featured heavily with 206 fish landed, and only 6 pike, but overall a lot of cracking fish to look back on. So here's the fifteenth season review, written monthly as I went along...

June: I didn't wet a line in the closed season - but the opening morning made up for it - a double figure barbel before 9am! One of 38 Small River barbel in four quick sessions. The other highlight was rudd fishing in the boat with James - love that little boat. And not one, but two 2lb+ rudd to a new PB of 2lb 10oz - monster!

July: I took my Small River barbel total to over 1,500 and added double number 28 (recapture). Floating about in the boat I landed a surprise pike while rudd fishing. And two days on the Wye saw a lot of chub, plus three little barbel. The highlight of the month was a new river, Blackwater, barbel of 8lb 0oz on a tough rainy day.

August: Started with a fantastic trip to the Lake District catching carp from an old iron pit. A few local trips added 30 barbel to my season (Small River total now 96). I spent some time exploring the chalk stream & upper river with the stick 'n' pin - loads of brown trout, plus a 1lb 2oz roach. And I bagged my first 5lb+ chub of the season!

September US: A very much anticipated week-long fishing trip to America. Fishing with Paulos we landed 23 sharks, seven red drum, 3 jacks and a massive stingray on light gear. We also enjoyed a bit of freshwater fishing; catching blue gill & some fantastic bowfin - and those swamp pike (chain pickerel) were absolutely amazing!

September UK: I bumped into blogger Adam from Fishin' Impossible & helped him find his first Small River barbel. Back from the States and off to a private stretch of The Wye with James (who was filming) - seven barbel, including two nines to 9lb 7oz landed. And my first trip to The Severn produced a fantastic 12lb 2oz barbel on a tough day.

October: Autumn was reluctant to land, so a beautiful sunny day on The Itchen chasing grayling with bloggers Keith, Danny & James. An afternoon catching gudgeon on the stick 'n' pin also resulted in 8 mini species, including 2 rare perch & 12 mini barbel. Plus I added another Small River double at 10lb 12oz - SR barbel total now 135.

November: Winter arrived abruptly and with it almost relentless rain - most of the rivers up and down the country were in flood. Only three quick trips to the Small River all month - one of which was a blank! My first barbel blank there in 8 years - it was long overdue!! With the frost starting to bite I need to head out in search of pike next month...

December: A good start with a new river, Rother, pike - not a double but a kype-nosed beauty. Conditions then turned against me but I had high hopes for the Xmas Wye. Christmas Eve saw a blank-saver barbel at 9lb 3oz - then the flood washed down and put an end to the piking! Oh, I finally managed to scrape a win at the annual Xmas fish-off!

January: First session of the year saw another double barbel on the bank, my 30th from the Small River. I had jack pike from The Kennet & The River Rother - still seaching for my new river double. A trip to The Wye for pike and barbel didn't go exactly to plan - but a stunning looking 8lb 13oz barbel saved the trip (no pike!).

February: Started with a few a few trips to the Small River and 25 barbel to 8lb 15oz. The main event was a week on The Wye with Paulos (over from the States). The water conditions were really against us - but perseverance paid off eventually. Just two pike all week - but they were crackers - 20lb 0oz & 17lb 4oz of hard-earned predators!

March: The last 2 weeks of the season. Two trips to the Small River and 9 barbel to 9lb 14oz - taking my Small River total to 185. A trip to The Wye where hopes of one last pike were dashed once again by the floods - a few small chub & barbel saved a blank and took my season total to 206 barbel. Another cracking season - roll on the next one...

Monday 18 March 2024

Barbel Challenge 2023/24

Once again I set the target of 100 Small River barbel over the season. Cracked in September, I ended up with 185 barbel - including 4 doubles. Fantastic local fishing when I haven't got a lot of time!

Opening morning 10lb 14oz (top). Recaptured July, 10lb 7oz (above).

October beauty, 10lb 12oz.

A January 10lb 12oz - my 30th double from the river.

March, 9lb 14oz - so close to the magic mark.

 Season No 5+ 7+ 10+ Best
 2010/11 27 1 0 0 6lb 6oz
 2011/12 44 14 8 0 9lb 12oz
 2012/13 56 34 20 6 12lb 4oz
 2013/14 8 5 4 0 7lb 13oz
 2014/15 71 33 16 1 10lb 1oz
 2015/16 127 45 15 0 9lb 4oz
 2016/17 70 31 15 2 11lb 15oz
 2017/18 132 56 23 2 10lb 9oz
 2018/19 101 36 13 1 10lb 3oz
 2019/20 164 69 28 5 12lb 1oz
 2020/21 250 77 20 6 14lb 2oz
 2021/22 180 34 8 2 11lb 1oz
 2022/23 228 47 8 1 10lb 9oz
 2023/24 185 59 16 4 10lb 14oz
 Total: 1,643 541 194 30 Breakdown

Plus I also targeted The Wye landing 19 barbel to 9lb 7oz, and two new rivers. An 8lb 0oz barbel from the Blackwater on a rain soaked afternoon and my first Severn barbel, a 12lb 2oz beauty!

Overall season total: 206 barbel

Friday 15 March 2024

Wye Felina

The end of the season, and to The Wye one last time with high hopes of one last pike before the break. But the river still hates me - floods and boiling red water - and even more cold water washing down...

Hopes improved when I found this side stream - almost clear water, the perfect sanctuary from the conditions for a big predator. A sardine was cast out and I was almost surprised when nothing snapped it up...

Time for a cup of tea and a bit of a rethink! I'd still chuck a pike bait in the limited slacks - slim chance was better than no chance. And put out a cube of meat on the second rod - see if anything fancied it...

The chub & barbel weren't really on the feed, it was a struggle to find feeding fish - but eventually 6 little barbel and 6 chub saved a blank. Not an epic close to the season - but think I made the best of it!

Friday 8 March 2024

End Of Season Double

If I can't get out for another pike before the season ends I'd settle for another double figure barbel... And when this one found the net after a serious fight I was sure I'd done it! But at 9lb 14oz she was 2oz short... Do I care? Nope - cracking barbel - more than happy!!

I think the problem with the landing net (top diagram) is the point of maximum stress (A) is really close to the weakest point, the drilled hole (B). Would doing away with this hole & screw fix this problem (bottom diagram)? An easy modification to make at home - I'm going to try it.

Wednesday 6 March 2024

Stormy Water

Clear water when I arrived on the Small River, and three barbel in quick succession - best 7lb 2oz (above). Then dirty water washed down - went from able to see the bottom to zero visability in about 2 minutes.

Barbel might like dirty water - but they don't like suddenly dirty water! Not a nibble for an hour or so until the colour started to wash out - then they came back on the feed - two more to 8lb 14oz.

Could have had more - but another landing net bites the dust! It's one I've fixed before - don't know why they drill the holes at the point of stress - might redesign it (and send them the new design?).

Thursday 29 February 2024

Goldfinch, Barbel & Satan

I'd really like to get out for another pike before the season ends - two weeks left - I'm watching the water levels & hoping they're not spawning just yet. BTW the photo is of a goldfinch skull - pretty cool.

Not enough time to go piking I shot down the Small River - and bagged 5 barbel to 6lb 9oz - plus a bonus chub at 3lb 10oz (can find the big ones). Great to get out before the rain starts again later!

Oh, and spotted this advert on the way to the river - living in London we're bombarded with hundreds of adverts every day - but this one really did stand out - brilliant!

Thursday 22 February 2024

Week On The Wye (Pt 2)

Three days gone, three to go and we hadn't even seen a pike, the water was still well above the +1.4 we needed - and the frogs and toads had started spawning - pike spawn around the same time. The difficult pike mission was getting even harder - but you've got to be in it to win it...

Day 4 / Saturday / Water level +2.1 - We were joined by our mate Steve, and we had permission to fish a tiny Wye tributary (we couldn't find pike in the main river). And it turned out to be a game changer. A run almost straight away - nervy, snaggy fight - a big pike in the net!

She went 20lb 0oz - very glad she'd had breakfast!! Steve followed a few minutes later with a 13lb 0oz beauty - we'd found fish! Then we fished on all day without another run. Absolutely brilliant to bag a Wye twenty - just needed Paulos to land a pike to make the trip...

Day 5 / Sunday / Water level +1.9 - Early start, only 2 days left and back on the main river. A run to Paulos - and a bumped fish - crap! An hour or so later it hit the smelt again, great fight and a 17lb 4oz pike was in the net. The only action - but - mission accomplished!

Day 6 / Monday / Water level +3.4 - The river rose a meter and a half overnight. But we'd had a big pike each, that was going to be our lot. A bit of early season addering instead - no adders yet but we did find three common lizards. Tough trip - but a cracking couple of pike!

Tuesday 20 February 2024

Week On The Wye (Pt 1)

Paulos was over from the States for a week - and that could mean only one thing - Wye Pike! We really need the water levels at +1.4 or below to catch them - and it wasn't going to happen! Hopefully we could find flood water pike - if not I'd just photograph the friendly robins!

Day 1 / Wednesday / Water level +2.4 - An early start & a meter more water than we wanted. Two rods each - we put deadbaits (and occasionally lures) through all the slacks. Only one run all day which turned out to be a new PB chub for Paulos - 5lb 4oz on a whole smelt!

Day 2 / Thursday / Water level +2.6 - Paulos couldn't fish today, but I headed out. Our dad, Roger, popped down to see me - decided it looked good for a barbel - so he walked home to get his kit. Walked back and had one in no time! At 6lb 7oz it was the only fish we saw all day!

Day 3 / Friday / Water level +2.3 - Another long day, and a lot of water covered. We talked of the good old days and 10 or 15 pike in an afternoon. Only the eels were interested in the deadbaits - so as it was getting dark I put a piece of meat on the lure rod & bagged a barbel.

Half way through the trip - it wasn't going to plan at all...